Trucker who refused to drive awarded back wages, fleet ordered to stop retaliation

| January 06, 2014

An Auburn, Wash.-based fleet has been ordered by the Labor Department to pay one of its former truck drivers back wages and to stop an attendance policy that the department says retaliates against drivers who refuse to drive due to safety reasons. 

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an investigation into Oak Harbor Freight Lines ordered the fleet to pay an unnamed driver lost wages after the driver filed a whistleblower complaint under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. 


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OSHA said the driver had notified his carrier that he was sick and was taking a prescribed cough medicine — and therefore could not drive. The driver was then suspended without pay in September 2010.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act protects drivers from retaliation by employers for refusing to drive when doing so would violate safety laws.

OSHA, in addition to ordering the carrier to compensate the driver, ordered Oak Harbor to stop issuing “occurrences” to drivers, which OSHA says punishes drivers for not driving, regardless of safety concerns, as the attendance policy can lead to disciplinary action.

Oak Harbor will also be required to post a notice for drivers to read to learn more about their rights under STAA.

“Punishing workers for exercising their right to refuse driving assignments is against the law,” said David Mahlum, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Seattle. “A company cannot place its attendance policies ahead of the safety of its drivers and that of the public.”

  • g

    Oh YES!! These companies Must OBEY just like the drivers! Do they think THEY are outside the LAW??? They need to be SLAMMED in fact….thruout history unscrupulous companies have Forced drivers to violate LAWS..nobody likes to talk about the ABUSE of drivers by Rich Companies and their Henchmen dispatchers and managers…..

  • g

    Companies need to be held accountable just like the driver. If adriver is ILL or on Medication according to FMCSA that driver SHALL NOT drive. Is that too hard for their MORONS in Safety to comprendo????? They need an ONSITE investigation NOW.

  • mousekiller

    Unfortunately many that post here do not really understand the whole picture nor how the world of trucking works.. It is as a rule not the companies but one or two persons within the companies that violate the rules for a laundry list of reasons. Example! Many companies pay the dispatcher a % of the load for on time delivery and some supervisors really don’t care how or why as long as its done. . Then again This driver did stand up for safety and he won the suit. If more drivers grew a set we would not have this happen very often.

  • Michael Brown

    If anyone will read the rules of the csa policy of the dot, a driver caught considered driving too sick to drive by the dot will be placed out of service, and 5 points placed on the drivers csa report as well.

  • Steve

    Good comments, and hopefully someone will read mine . . .
    The companies get away with it today for the same reason they always have, and likely will, drivers keep breaking the law in order to make more money for themselves. This is no different than HOS, or many other issues between companies and drivers. If drivers hadn’t been using, or had initially refused to use three different log books, companies wouldn’t have asked/forced them to, and electronic logs wouldn’t be an issue. If they do ask, and there’s not a gun to your head, it’s your CHOICE, and YOUR CDL. Simply another issue of drivers not being able to all get on the same page. If we could, we’d be able to follow the rules, (work less hours), AND make a higher wage. Sure, it IS the companies fault for doing it, BUT, it is also OUR fault for letting them continue to do it . . .

  • Rick Hodad

    Sure, dispatchers and drivers, and all workers, are under the same pressure to perform and provide for their families. The wealthy owners are insulated from responsibility, they might take a ding in profit, but never any real risk of being unable to provide. Put owners in jail, 30 days for each violation, and you will see change – right now.

  • Rick Hodad

    Though I basically agree with your point of view, understand that there are many forms of coercion other than a ‘gun to the head’. Suspension, termination, blacklisting, reducing loads, and making it impossible to make a living are strong inducements. It is wrong minded to put the onus totally in the drivers lap, when it is ownership and management who have the responsibility to run a legitimate operation. The rub occurs when ownership and management are at odds with workers, and the system expects the group with the least amount of resources and authority to be charged with that responsibility.

  • mousekiller

    If more drivers had the gonads to say NO I am too sick or too tired to continue and it is truthful we would have less us against them attitude with the cops. companies would have more respect for more of their drivers.In my opinion so would the authorities and the public.
    The important thing to do if you have an EORB is to state in the message the words SAFETY.
    Too tired or sick or roads are unsafe to safely drive. Always use the word safety in the message.
    Using the cell or public phone only shows a call was made not the content or reason for the call.
    That is the only good thing about an EOBR . .

  • terry andersen

    since when has the driver or public safety a concern of the company’s or the government? If the company’s cred about safety CVSA would not be around, if safety was a concern of the government they would stop the lies and look at this industry for what it is and put some rules in place to protect the driver just a person trying to make a buck from four wheeler and their games cops and their rude treatment of professionals and to get both sides of a story and find the truth take rear endear for eg. i am sure some of you can add to it why are judge lawyer and police not put through the same thing as drives with inspection on their work and 6 mon can have any file review by people who care about the law. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.